Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Strange but weird - Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere

I can't remember exactly how I discovered Neverwhere. I think I was checking the definition of "malevolent" for a Deadwood recap and hilariously found (on the first page of the Google search, no less) tomatoesareevil.com, which was created by Neil Gaiman. I poked around there and found a link to Gaiman's main site which lists all the stuff he's done: comics, books, theater, movies.

Neverwhere was a six-part television series made for the BBC in the 1990s - and each of the six parts is only a half hour, so it's a pretty quick viewing. The DVD also has a BBC interview with Gaiman that I only watched a few minutes of, but he mentioned that part of his inspiration came from the London Tube map with its imagination-firing place names: Angel Islington, Earls Court, Turnham Green, Piccadilly Circus, Hammersmith, Limehouse, Goodge Street. Set in those underground tunnels and sewers below London, this is the story of how a normal guy, Richard Mayhew, gets sucked into a nightmarish alternate world, all because he stopped to help a hurt girl. The girl is somewhat of a princess in London-Below and Richard helps her on her quest to avenge her murdered family, along the way discovering hidden depths about himself.

This little series is nuts - like a really, really, REALLY low budget Time Bandits. It looks as though it was filmed on videotape; the special effects are giggle-inducing. But all of the actors are playing it straight and they manage to nearly sell this crazy world. Two of the characters, Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandermar, steal every scene they're in: they're murderers for hire and do their job with much humor and relish. "Can't make an omelette ..." says Mr. Croup near the end, and Mr. Vandermar (who likes to eat the rats and frogs he kills in his spare time) finishes, "... without killing some people." Hee.

Having now seen both Stardust and Neverwhere, I'm intrigued enough by Gaiman's work to want to move Mirrormask up in my queue and also to pick up some of his books, comic and regular. I'm not sure I'd recommend Neverwhere as the introductory course in a Gaiman education but it is definitely worth it as an elective along the way.

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